Boots ‘n’ Bourbon ★½
725 Queen St. E., 647-348-0880
Matt Pettit, the entrepreneurial chef behind the Rock Lobster mini-chain, has brought the Wild West to the east end. His new saloon, formerly the Riverside Public House, is a honky-tonk fantasy of saddle-covered stools, Stetson-hatted bartenders and, yes, a thrashing mechanical bull. The kitchen stays on theme, churning out fried bar staples and spiced-up American South favourites. The fried beer cheese sounds like a hazardous carnival snack but turns out to be one of the best things on the menu: a sharp, creamy mix of chèvre and cheddar, dipped in a lager-panko batter for optimal crunch. Skip the fried buttermilk chicken, which fails to meet its standard. But do try the screaming crab, one of Pettit’s trademark dishes, which brings a jerk-spiced pileup of butter-poached snow crab and tiger shrimp with scotch bonnets, cilantro and lime.